How Much Water Should You Drink When Training in the Summer?

  Jun 25, 2018  |  #Running

Now that summer has officially made its welcoming, one of the things I talk to my athletes about is hydration. So, today we’re talking about how much water you should drink when training in the summer! And I’m linking up with Hoho Runs and Taking the Long Way Home for the Weekly Wrap!

Ed and I did a sports nutrition talk last week to some kids at a running camp (I talked about the fueling, he talked about the running gear/shoes). One thing I really emphasized, since we’re having 95 degree days here in Charlotte, is adequate hydration.

How much water should you drink in the summer months when running?

While hydration is important any time you run and exercise, it’s EXTRA important in the summer months.  You see, our bodies do want to seek equilibrium. Our bodies achieve water balance when our intake from fluids (and some foods) is equivalent to the water we lose, which is mainly through urine, sweat and feces.

On the other hand, we become dehydrated when we lose that water balance, and our  fluid losses are greater than fluid intake. Therefore, our bodies aren’t able to cool themselves during exercise. Dehydration can have lasting effects, including slowed delivery of nutrients and oxygen to cells, altered body temperature, increased muscle cramps, decreased cognitive function and concentration and more. Did you know it take up to 24 hours for the body to regain fluid balance after dehydration?!

How much water should you drink in the summer months when running?

How Much You Should Drink

Now that we know how important hydration is, how much should you be drinking for your outdoor activity?

Well, like much of nutrition, it varies and is very personalized. Athletes, and those who are active, generally need more than the general recommendation of 8 cups a day. Half of your body weight, in ounces, is a pretty good estimation, but doesn’t account for exercise – especially outdoor exercise in the heat.

Fluid needs vary per person and activity level. Needs are higher in heat and humidity, travel, altitude, illness and during intense training cycles. The best way to manage hydration is to focus on it BEFORE, during and AFTER activity. Once you lose water balance or become dehydrated, it’s nearly impossible to catch up during exercise.

The best way to manage #hydration is to focus on it before, during and after a run #runchat #summerrunning Click To Tweet

A general recommendation is to consume 8 ounces of fluid 15 to 30 minutes before exercise and upwards of 16 ounces a few hours prior. During training, you want to drink to prevent thirst. You also want to try to prevent a greater than 2 percent loss of body weight. While individual needs vary, a good starting point is 0.4 to 0.8 liters per hour.

After exercise, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound lost. Staying hydrated isn’t just about water though – remember those electrolytes! Including sodium in fluids and foods can also help with fluid retention.

Dairy products (yeaaaa chocolate milk!) are great post-workout options with sufficient carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes. Bread, soup and a couple scrambled eggs will also give you some sodium. Bananas, potatoes and avocados are great sources of potassium. For more on electrolytes, see here.

How much water should you drink in the summer months when running?

How to Stay On Top of Your Hydration

The average person sweats between 0.3 and 2.4 liters per hour during exercise. Obviously, as in hydration needs, there is a large individual variability in terms of  sweat loss rates. Sweat loss is influenced by genetics, gender, age, temperature, exercise intensity, fitness level and acclimatization. Unless you have the ability to perform a sweat rate test, there are some other things you can do to stay on top of your hydration levels.

So, here’s what you can do:

Monitor Your Urine

Urine that is darker in color and low in volume is indicative of dehydration. Aim for a light-colored urine at regular intervals to gauge your hydration status. I love using this chart with clients. Your pee shouldn’t be clear, or too concentrated (like apple juice). You want it more like lemonade color.

urine chart for dehydration

Weigh Yourself Before And After Exercise

While I’m normally not much of a fan for weighing yourself to measure health, when talking about hydration status, it can be helpful for some people depending on the situation. If you weight yourself before/after a run, each pound of weight lost is equivalent to about 16 ounces of fluid lost. You want to replenish that amount of liquid plus 125 to 150 percent more to achieve optimal hydration, since sweat and urine losses continue after exercise.

So, if you lost one pound of weight after a training session, aim for 24 ounces of water to achieve “re-hydration.”

I will also add that this may not be ideal for those recovering from or dealing with disordered eating or an eating disorder, or struggling with body image. The thought here is not to put numbers up to focus on, but instead, to make sure you are adequately hydrating. If you fall into the above categories, I would recommend focusing on drinking enough before and during, and replenishing after with a combination of water (or other liquids), electrolytes and an adequate post-exercise meal.

For optimal performance, avoid losing more than 2-3% of your body weight during exercise (about three to four pounds for a 150-pound athlete).

Here’s how to calculate your body weight loss percentage:

(weight before exercise – weight after exercise)/weight before exercise

Fluid needs vary per person and activity level, and are higher in heat and humidity, travel, altitude, illness and during intense training cycles. #runchat #hydration #summerrunningClick To Tweet

Watch Your Sweat (Is it Salty?)

If your sweat is salty, it likely contains a high concentration of sodium and you may be a “salty sweater.” If this is the case, you’ll want to consume more sodium-containing food and beverages before, during and after prolonged exercise to manage your hydration status. You can even add salt to pre/post food options, like salted peanut butter on dates! That’s my favorite.

How much water should you drink in the summer months when running?

Consume Water And Electrolytes

As I mentioned above, while drinking water is important, it’s not the ONLY answer for hydration. Drinking water without consuming sufficient electrolytes can lead to serious consequences, such as hyponatremia, or a low concentration of sodium in relation to water. Increasing sodium levels through electrolyte consumption can help your body retain fluids while helping you feel thirsty.

An adequate sodium intake will also decrease your sweat rate, therefore decreasing the amount of water lost in sweat.

Bottom Line

Water is something that should be considered at all times in summer months, not just around training sessions. If you’re working on staying hydrated throughout the day, here are some simple tips. Try carrying a water bottle at all times, drinking water at meals and incorporating ample fruits and vegetables with a higher water content in your diet. My favorites are cucumbers, watermelon, strawberries and oranges.

While sports drinks can also provide ample electrolytes, your everyday liquids (like milk and juice) can supplement, as well. I also love using NUUN tabs to hydrate before/after a run, and also huma gels or honey stingers for longer runs to get both carbs + electrolytes.

How much water should you drink in the summer months when running?

Like I tell my athletes, you can do all the training and run all the miles. But, if you don’t have your nutrition and hydration plan down, you won’t optimize your performance!

What’s your favorite fuel when running? When marathon training, I used dried fruit, honey stinger gels and huma gels. And always NUUN in my water!

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20 responses to “How Much Water Should You Drink When Training in the Summer?

  1. Love this! I noticed I was getting more tired on my runs than normal so I started bringing my water bottle with me and noticed a difference. It’s interesting how much water you can lose during a run. Now I’m super interested in that portion of it. Thanks for sharing Sarah!

  2. Thank you so so much for this! This is honestly so helpful. I find that I worry that I’m either drinking too little or too much water, so now I can figure out exactly how much I need!

    1. So glad you found it helpful, Samantha! It’s probably impossible to get it exactly right, but judging by feel can be good too!

  3. This is such great info! I have been struggling with staying properly hydrated lately. Usually when i realize i’m dehydrated its too late. I have been good about hydrating after a run because i’m really thirsty! My husband is such a salty sweater-you can literally see the salt on his face after a run!

    1. I’ve been struggling myself in the summer and with breastfeeding. I need to remind myself to keep drinking, too!

  4. Great information!!! I ran long on Saturday and I was certainly crusty. This summer is so different from any that I have trained in. I’m needing to get some salt tablets.

    1. Good question – that picture isn’t quite clear! I generally say clear is a little overhydrated, it should be a light yellow, but I’m sure it may vary slightly per person.

  5. As an elite runner, a (somewhat) new mom and someone who recovered from an eating disorder- I’m disappointed in this post. It seems like you are totally on board with intuitive eating/ movement and HAES until running comes into the picture. I guess I just dont see how telling people to weigh themselves before and after exercise in order to know how much water to drink is helpful. To me, that is rigid and unnecessary. Why not simply tell people to drink fluids before, during, after exercise and then move on with their day? I love your blog so much, but this post left me feeling unsure of your priorities/ where you stand.

    1. Hi Roalla – first off, thank you for reading and for your comment. I can completely see what you are saying and I guess I should have started by saying most of these are recommendations from the Academy of Sports Medicine and is research based – for some people who are exercising intensely or may not be in touch with their sweat rates or how much they are drinking, it may be one measure they could use. That being said, I went back in and added in my post that I wouldn’t recommend this for those recovering from eating disorders or disordered eating, or those struggling with body image who can get fixated on a number.

  6. Great info! I ran a 5K recently on a very hot/humid day, and also ran 3 miles before the race. I weighed myself before and after…and I lost four pounds from all the sweating. I never felt faint or weird, but I definitely was a wet mess LOL

  7. Great reminder! I am so surprised when runners I know do not actually even consider drinking extra in the summer! it doesn’t even get that hot here but STILL you need the extra hydration when the weather is warm and you are out in the sun sweating! I like to drink ice cold water do and generally get about 2 – 3 liters in per day. I don’t however drink too much before I go out (that’s why I really pre-hydrate) because, well, I’m almost 50 and so is my bladder, ifyouknowwhatImean… I also always take hydration with me on any run more than 1 hour and usually that would be in the form of my pack with two water flasks (minimum) with SiS or Nuun electrolyte tabs. I am loving Clif shot bloks too at the moment; they have a new flavor – salted watermelon! I’m a salty sweater and am now proudly going to tell my hubs that YES I will put extra salt on my food because I need it!

    1. I think that’s one of the more problematic situations – when people don’t drink extra, or may not feel extra thirsty. We are still losing the sweat, regardless! And salted watermelon sounds fabulous 🙂

  8. Very informative and helpful post! It’s incredible how much people sweat during summer runs, well, at least me for sure 🙂 I am always sure to drink a ton of NUUN and water afterwards but I don’t always do that great of a job DURING a run, so I’m catching up the rest of the day.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. This is very timely info for summer running! On any given day, I do drink half of my body weight in ounces of water. I feel “icky” without my water intake. I’m a very heavy and salty sweater, which is probably a byproduct of running in the deep south. But, I find it a tricky situation not to drink too much. How do we know how much is too much? I’d like to hear your thoughts on that too. Thanks for linking!

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